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Tom Glocer: it's not just about money

It's not just about money: there are other things involved in keeping the stars in the business, says Tom Glocer.

“We want incredible, high-performing, successful people but within the boundaries where the company matters more than I. There'll be another chief executive. There've been nine before me at Reuters and, if you think in longer terms, it puts a bit of perspective just on how bright is your candle power,” the CEO said in a radio broadcast.

“It's not just about money, but there is a market out there for talent. People are more aware of it than they think. To pretend that it's no issue at all and that people will just stay for the joy of it, I think, ultimately, is insulting but, conversely, if you believe you can bribe people to stay in a hostile environment or money's the only thing that motivates them, all of the research, all of my experience,  shows differently. In fact what the best research show is that the single highest correlating factor to retaining employees and job satisfaction is: my manager understands me, cares about me, maybe knows the names of my children and is interested in my work and helps me achieve my goals. But don't try and pay me half the market rate, 'cos you'll just, you know, you'll diss me.”

Glocer described a cycle which he said was true for human beings, for companies and for governments where success and high achievement breeds pride, “that's OK, then breeds arrogance, not OK, then breeds complacency, egotistical behaviour, and then the downfall, and you see that cycle over and over again.

“And it is the rare individual and the rare company that can stay when it's at the top of the game. How paranoid are you? … You need to keep that humble questioning, otherwise eventually you'll just believe your own PR.”

Glocer was speaking in a panel discussion on BBC Radio 4 programme The Bottom Line, first broadcast on Sunday 28 March.

Interviewer Evan Davies also asked Glocer about the motivation for Thomson’s 2008 takeover of Reuters. Was it that Reuters suddenly found itself facing the most intense competition in the most lucrative bit of the market from players like Bloomberg? Was Reuters getting a bit desperate?

Glocer’s reply: “No, Reuters went through - I arrived in the UK and took on the job as chief executive in the summer of 2001 and the period 2001 to 2003 was the near-death experience for Reuters, and it was really difficult. You know, we had to do some very unpopular things. I had to do some things that I still find hard to this day. We let a lot of people go which substantially restructured the company, we sold a lot of units, but until the time we agreed to the Thomson acquisition we had come through that hole and were growing nicely again. The fit with Thomson was just so good, and their willingness to come at the right moment and pay a substantial premium for Reuters was there, that we jumped.” 

Asked about the decline of newspapers, Glocer said: “At the margin, the traditional Reuters news agency selling to media customers is now about two per cent of the $13 billion annual revenues of the firm… It's very visible, we care about it a lot, it's still a profitable business but, you know, the shift in our revenues reflects where we find profitable opportunities, and yes, the newspaper world is going through a terrible, wrenching transformation. Part of it, I think, is because people can't wrap their brains around a pretty straightforward transition which is: newspapers don't have to be on physical wood paper pulp technology, right? It just so happens that the current processes lasted for so long no one can think about what does journalism mean in an iPad world, or son of iPad, and what will it look like. So, I think this is not the death knell of journalism, it is the death knell of people who insist that journalism has to be about printing on dead trees.”


Video version of the radio broadcast (available only in the UK) ■